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PR- 157-12
April 27, 2012


Nearly 1,900 Violations Issued & Over 50 Vacates Ordered for Imminently Dangerous Conditions Last Year

Hi-Resolution Images of Illegal Locations with Serious Fire Safety Conditions at

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Chief Policy Advisor John Feinblatt and Director of the Office of Special Enforcement Kathleen McGee today announced the results of the City’s ongoing efforts to crackdown on dangerous illegal hotels. In 2011, the Office of Special Enforcement issued 1,897 violations to landlords as a result of inspections for illegally converted residential buildings into hotels – an increase of 244 percent over the previous year. The Office of Special Enforcement also vacated 51 additional locations – a rise of 75.9 percent from 2010 – for posing immediately hazardous conditions, including lacking fire alarms, adequate sprinkler systems and creating firetraps, for both residents and to the general well-being of the community. In May 2011, a State bill proposed by the Bloomberg Administration and sponsored by State Senator Liz Krueger and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried went into force, eliminating ambiguities surrounding the law and strengthening the Office of Special Enforcement’s ability to take enforcement actions against illegally-converted, unsafe hotels.

“When residential apartment buildings designated for permanent occupancy are illegally converted into hotels, they create unsafe, hazardous conditions and threaten the character of our neighborhoods,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “With the adoption of the May 2011 legislation, we rectified ambiguities in the law surrounding the definition of illegal hotels, allowing for more effective action to be taken against them. Today’s news is a clear indication of the progress being made, but we need to continue to be vigilant in order to tackle the issue of illegal hotels and the serious quality-of-life problems and safety hazards they create.”

“Illegal hotels create unsafe and extremely dangerous conditions, and operators of illegal hotels put profits above the safety of New Yorkers and tourists,” said Chief Policy Advisor Feinblatt. “The legislation we proposed eliminated ambiguities in the law and established clear-cut definitions of permanent and transient occupancy – and the effect has been clear. While enforcement against illegal hotels will always remain a challenge, we will continue to look for new and innovative ways to attack the dangerous safety problems they pose.”

“Through smart legislation and strong enforcement we're continuing to make certain our City is fire safe for millions of residents and visitors, as well as the Firefighters who risk their lives every day,” said Fire Commissioner Salvatore J. Cassano. “New York City is in the midst of an unprecedented period of fire safety - with fewer people dying in fires than ever before in the City’s history - and these collective efforts bring us one step closer to our ultimate goal of zero fire related fatalities.”

“With people visiting the City in record-breaking numbers, health and safety concerns are always top of mind,” said NYC & Company CEO George Fertitta. “Illegal hotels present numerous hazards and it is imperative to remain vigilant in order to improve the quality of life of both travelers and residents.  NYC & Company and our over 240 member hotels applaud the work being done by the administration, these efforts are helping ensure the New York City visitor experience is a safe one.”

The illegal conversion of residential buildings into hotels presents serious problems for permanent residents, limiting the supply of available housing – especially rent-regulated and low-income housing. In addition, by lacking the necessary fire-safety measures required by law, illegal hotels present severe safety and security hazards in residential buildings, while diverting services intended for permanent residents and harming the residential character of neighborhoods.

“Illegal hotels endanger the health, safety, and quality of life of New Yorkers. At the same time, they take apartments off the market for actual residents and exacerbate our affordable housing crisis,” said Senator Krueger. “Last year, state legislation provided New York City’s enforcement agencies with the tools needed to investigate and take appropriate actions against illegal hotel operations, and I’m thrilled that the City is aggressively using those tools to get results.”

“Illegal hotels create safety hazards and disruption, and take needed housing units off the market. Law enforcement in this area is very difficult and labor-intensive,” said Assembly Member Gottfried. “The Bloomberg Administration has been doing an excellent job cracking down on illegal hotel operations.”

“I congratulate Mayor Bloomberg and particularly the Office of Special Enforcement for their responsiveness to the requests for inspections from permanent residents of residential hotels and Single Room Occupancy buildings,” said Council Member Gale Brewer. “It is New Yorkers living in these units who have had to deal with challenging and illegal uses, such as six tourists to one room, loud noises at night, broken elevators due to excessive use, lack of security and lack of fire equipment creating fire hazards as back packers fills rooms and hallways with drinking and becoming ill. Meanwhile, permanent tenants are both older and retired or workers who have to get up in the morning; in both cases, the noise is very disturbing. The Mayor’'s Office has enforced the state law, which states that any occupant has to live in a unit for a minimum of 30 days. Because many owners and managers flaunt this mandate, creating an unsafe situation, the Office of Special Enforcement has taken action against any hotel that is illegally converted, improving the living conditions for all tenants.”

The State legislation – signed into law by Governor Paterson in June 2010 and adopted in May 2011 – provides a clear benchmark by defining transient occupancy as constituting fewer than 30 days and makes it illegal for any single unit of a residential building to be used in such a manner. Penalties for violations are a minimum of $800 and can exceed $2,000 for repeat offenders.

To date, the Office of Special Enforcement has issued more than 4,200 violations and over 100 vacates for extremely dangerous conditions, including overcrowding and creating hazardous fire-trap conditions. Since the passage of May 2011 legislation, the Office has issued over 1,820 violations and more than 40 vacate orders.

Examples of the conditions found during inspections conducted by the Office of Special Enforcement last year include:

580 Greene Avenue, Brooklyn

  • Entire building vacated for overcrowding.
  • Inadequate egress and no sprinkler or fire alarm system.
  • 3-Family home occupied by 44 guests.
  • Additional safety violations: combustible materials; inadequate smoke alarms and emergency lighting.

2027 First Avenue, Manhattan

  • Entire building vacated for overcrowding.
  • Certificate of Occupancy for residential apartments, but work done to convert to single rooms with shared baths.
  • Additional safety violations: no fire safety director on premises and combustible material throughout the building.

560 West 173rd Street, Manhattan

  • Partial vacate order issued for two floors of illegally occupied and overcrowded rooms.
  • Inadequate egress.
  • Inadequate sprinkler, fire alarm and fire protection systems.

1372 York Avenue, Manhattan

  • Partial vacate order issued for overcrowding.
  • Inadequate egress.
  • Inadequate sprinkler, fire alarm and fire protection systems.

270 East 7th Street, Manhattan

  • Class I hazardous violations issued for dangerous conditions
  • Certificate of Occupancy for residential apartments, but being used as illegal hotel
  • Inadequate egress
  • Inadequate sprinkler and fire protection systems, including no fire alarm.

Created in November 2006 through the expansion of the former Office of Midtown Enforcement, the Office of Special Enforcement is a multiagency taskforce overseen by Chief Policy Advisor Feinblatt and led by Director McGee. The Office maintains citywide jurisdiction to coordinate and enhance enforcement efforts across City agencies to address quality of life issues in all five boroughs, including the issue of illegal hotels.


Stu Loeser / Kamran Mumtaz   (212) 788-2958


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